Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Vancouver launch of The Revolution Starts at Home, an anthology dealing with intimate partner violence within activist and radical communities. Co-editors Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha were present at the Rhizome Cafe to talk about their powerful collection of stories. The insights shared by participants and audience members at the launch was extremely moving.
The Revolution Starts at Home is different from many other works on intimate partner violence in that it tells stories from voices all too often marginalised. It broke away from mainstream discourse of intimate partner violence as a phenomenon perpetrated solely by men against women, and alongside such examples also included real-life stories of abuse in same-sex relationships, including by and against trans people.
It also highlighted the very real dangers that racialised people, non-status immigrants, people of minority sexual orientations or gender identities, and activists who organise against police brutality or the prison-industrial complex often face in taking intimate partner violence to the authorities.
In a particular powerful anecdote from the book, one author relates the time the police were called to her apartment after her neighbours heard her partner physically assaulting her, and immediately upon entering the apartment pulled her aside and demanded to see her immigration papers. The police did not make any effort to make her feel safe or reassure her that her rights were going to be protected, which informs why so many other contributions to the anthology deal with support and internal policing mechanisms that activist and radical communities can implement without having to rely on state apparatus.
I would strongly recommend picking up a copy of the anthology. However, part of the reason that the book launch was so powerful were the contributions of audience members. The issues that The Revolution Starts at Home deals with aren’t things that we talk about every day, and the opportunity that the book launch provided for people to get together, to talk, to discuss their own experiences, and to share ideas for strengthening their own activist and radical communities was incredibly valuable.
If you couldn’t make it to the book launch, I would strongly recommend having these conversations with your friends, your allies, and your fellow community members. What are their experiences? How are they similar or different to your own? And what do you feel needs to be done to make you, your friends, or your allies safe in this community, especially if you don’t feel like you can rely on the state?